All-time great Georges St-Pierre is returning to the octagon at UFC 217 in Madison Square Garden on Nov. 4 to challenge middleweight champion Michael Bisping. If successful, St-Pierre will become the fourth fighter in UFC history to win a belt in a second weight class, and will accomplish the feat on the same stage where Conor McGregor became the first champion in two-weight classes simultaneously.
St-Pierre has presumably come back in the pursuit of super fights, and those will only be available if he beats Bisping. St-Pierre said he would retire if he loses. If he wins, the potential fights will be plentiful. He could go back down to welterweight, to reclaim that title against champion Tyron Woodley and match McGregor’s feat of simultaneous title reigns. Or perhaps he could fight McGregor in a catchweight bout.
Those kind of tantalizing matchups have Bisping feeling like the UFC is rooting against him.
“He keeps talking about, ‘It’s in the contract. It’s in the contract that I fight Whittaker,’ but he ain’t,” Bisping said on his Believe You Me podcast. “He ain’t gonna fight Whittaker if it’s in the contract or not. I believe it is in the contract but all he’s gotta do is say, ‘I don’t fancy doing that and if you want me to fight again and maybe sell a lot of pay-per-views, it’s gotta be someone else.’ The UFC would fold, I’ve got to imagine.
“He wants to beat me, go back down to welterweight, beat [UFC welterweight champion] Tyron [Woodley], and then face [UFC lightweight champion] Conor [McGregor], beat all three, and then retire and make a ton of money. And the UFC probably wants that to happen. By that I don’t mean beat Conor, I mean beat me. Beat me, then either beat Woodley or go straight to Conor.”
Bisping also believes St-Pierre can afford not to fight as often as other champions, and waiting might afford him the fights he wants. Woodley is recovering from injury, and needs time to get into fight shape. Bisping also suggested St-Pierre could use the time to shed weight to drop down and fight McGregor after his next fight and title defense.
The UFC’s dream scenario might be St-Pierre reclaiming the welterweight title and making his first defense against McGregor. It’s a superfight between two of the company’s biggest pay-per-view draws and McGregor would be in a position to possibly win a title in a third weight class, a feat no UFC fighter has ever accomplished.
“The skeptic inside me says [the UFC] probably want that to happen,” Bisping said. “If I was running the UFC, that’s what I’d want to happen. My job is to play spoiler, wreck all those plans, and beat the s**t out of Georges St-Pierre.”
Darren Till makes a statement with TKO of Donald Cerrone
The UFC was entering an intriguing run in the welterweight division with all the top contenders booked against one another. The hope is that a contender will rise from the ashes and claim the next shot at champion Tyron Woodley.
One of the lesser marquee matchups pitted former lightweight title contender and fan favorite Donald Cerrone against up-and-comer Darren Till, a 24-year-old from Liverpool, England.
In the main event slot for the first time in his UFC career, Till didn’t disappoint -- earning a first-round TKO over one of the sport’s toughest.
Till also earned the praise of UFC president Dana White, who labeled him “the future”.
Had Till been ranked higher before the bout, he might be the next contender for the title with his undefeated record, including a five-fight unbeaten streak in the UFC. But Till only entered the rankings for the first time, moving into the No. 8 slot behind a murderer’s row of welterweight contenders.
The obvious option would see Till fight Mike Perry -- the two shared a confrontation through the links of the cage after Till’s win. Perry has been an entertaining star to watch and that matchup could be intriguing for fans.
However, since Perry is unranked, it might not be the best booking for Till if he wants to maximize his chances at a title shot.
Still, Perry is a known commodity and a fighter with an entertaining style that loves to exchange on the feet; it could be the matchup that provides Till the next highlight reel moment to put on his title bout resume.
Jarred Brooks ready to face Demetrious Johnson, but a tad too soon
When a dominant champion lords over a division, the promotion must seek another contender. Demetrious Johnson talked at length about this before UFC 216 and said his low pay kept him fighting frequently and preventing young fighters from maturing and building into stars, perhaps fighting Johnson before they’re really ready.
But undefeated flyweight Jarred Brooks feels like the timing is just right.
“Yeah, if I call out Demetrious Johnson, I will have a big onslaught of fans being like, ‘Who the f**k are you?’, ‘Who the f**k is this guy?,” Brooks told FanSided MMA. “That’s one of the reasons why I am in this division. I’m here to be the adversary. I am not the good guy like Demetrious Johnson is. Demetrious Johnson, no matter what, no matter who he fights, is going to end up being the good guy. If I have to be the bad guy to get where I need to be, I will definitely play that part. I feel like someone like me, I’m around Demetrious’ size, I’m just as fast as him, I’ve studied Demetrious almost every day, I think I can bring his game plan onto him.
“Most people are afraid because they want to be prepared enough to beat him, but I am not that type of person. I am not afraid to go into the Octagon and give it my all, push all of my s**t out to where I can come out the victor at the end.”
Now the line to fight Johnson is long, and presumably his next challenger will be the winner of the Sergio Pettis vs. Henry Cejudo fight at UFC 218 in December. Pettis is a long-time UFC vet and younger brother to former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis and unlike Cejudo, has yet to fight Johnson. Legendary coach Duke Roufus called Sergio Pettis the best striker he’s worked with. That means a lot.
Brooks, while undefeated, has just one fight in the UFC before stepping into the cage with Deiveson Figueiredo on Saturday night in Sao Paulo. Figueiredo, while also undefeated, has just one UFC fight to his name as well and isn’t the level of opponent that will catapult Brooks into title contention.
But Brooks’ methodology isn’t flawed. As long as Brooks continues to win, each time he mentions Johnson’s name he gets closer to a title shot. It’s a business of self-promotion and that’s a skill not every fighter develops. Brooks is winning in that realm.
Stephen Thompson wants an interim title fight against Robbie Lawler after UFC 217
Interim titles are en vogue, and they’ve seemed to become a staple of the UFC as opposed to the bandaid they’re intended to be. We’re facing a situation where we could potentially see interim titles defended instead of unified.
But while many fighters have complained about interim titles, every fighter would take an interim title fight if it was offered. Some, like Stephen Thompson, are even campaigning for them.
"We’ve been kind of going back and forth with me and Robbie Lawler, I was ranked number one, then he’s number one, then we’re both number one. So hopefully a good win over this – you know, I understand Tyron is out for a little while, so hopefully we’ll be able to fight against Robbie Lawler, maybe for an interim welterweight title against him for that belt," Thompson told Submission Radio.
Lawler is currently booked to fight Rafael dos Anjos and Dana White said the winner of that bout would challenge Woodley for the title next. Dos Anjos even pleaded for the Lawler bout to be for an interim title. While there’s no timetable for Woodley’s return, the champion defended his title less than three months ago and an interim title would be preposterous.
Now, if Thompson gets past Jorge Masvidal at UFC 217, and Lawler gets passed dos Anjos at UFC on FOX 26 in December, a fight between Thompson and Lawler would happen in March at the earliest. If there is still no timetable for a Woodley defense, then we can discuss it.
But Woodley fought in four title fights in less than one calendar year; the man can take a few months to heal.
• Jon Jones is still getting tested by USADA as his case stemming from UFC 214 is still pending.
• Dana White isn’t shutting the door on the UFC getting into boxing.
• Dustin Poirier is once again auctioning off his fight kit to raise money for charity.